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John Gilbert diary entry

23 October 1844 - 24 October 1844

Page 94. Volume 1

and to give us a treat; ordered a sea-pie to be made of all but the Grus, which was reserved for next day's meal. Many new and beautiful Plants were discovered to day, the most beautiful is a blue Composita with an umbel of blossoms of blue, having yellow pistils, a=nother very remarkable plant was an Eucalyptus with a red or rusty coloured bark, in other respects the tree in the character of its bark and seed vessels very closely re=sembles the species known in the Colony as Bloodwood. on the banks of the first creek the Dr found several new species of Acacia, and termed it Acacia Creek, the other or main stream he called Dogwood Creek, from the great quantity of the latter plant (Jacksonia) growing on its banks, the Timber consists of Flooded Gum, Spotted Gum, the new rusty coloured species, Apple tree and Iron bark, with small groves of the forest Casuarina. on this creek were growing a few stunted Xanthorrhoea the first we have seen, it is a different species from that growing in the Darling Downs district, having very thin grass like leaves, and the highest we saw did not exceed two feet from the ground, the colour a light grass green. I found a new Mus47. I shot a Ptilotis which is either fusca or a near ally48. (Days Dist. 9½ miles)

Thurs Oct 24. On dissecting the Grus antigone49, I found the convolution of Trachaea although a female bird. the keel of the sternum is hollowed out as in some of the European Swans. the trachaea reaching to near three inches of its length before it turns back to enter the lungs. the stomach was ex=ceedingly thick α muscular and contained large Pebbles in great proportion, seeds of the swamp grass, and Coleoptera, and what appeared to be ve=getable matter generally. the flesh of this bird we had for breakfast, and found it not only excellent, but sufficient. We were delayed in starting from 6 of our horses having strayed back. from this cause we did not get away till near ten o'clock. At first the Dr intended to followed [sic] up the Creek to find a crossing place but Mr Hodgson having examined the banks upwards for three miles without finding any change in its character viz. boggy or very steep banks, on hearing this we found it necessary to pursue our course back to where we yesterday crossed the tributary creek, for in trying several other parts we very narrowly escaped being bogged. after this we went on for about two miles down Dogwood Creek, when we came upon a stony part of the bank on one side and the opposite clayey α covered with Dogwood; here we were

Note 47

Many of Gilbert's rodents that he collected on the Darling Downs in the period just before he joined the Leichhardt Expedition are still extant; most are of taxonomic importance. None of the few mammals from the expedition which survive can be directly attributed to Gilbert, presumably because of the decision Leichhardt made on 31st December 1844 that "he claimed the first of everything collected, with the single exception of the birds”. However, there is much conjecture about whether the two syntypes of Leichhardt's Rat-kangaroo Lagorchestes conspicillatus leichardti, which were probably collected at the Valley of Lagoons, were actually collected by Gilbert but claimed by Leichhardt. These two specimens are in the Australian Museum, and it is possible that other "Leichhardt" mammals from the expedition still exist there, although their original labels have long since disappeared. Robert Lynd, the British army officer and friend of Leichhardt, was also Honorary Secretary of the Australian Museum. He wrote to Gould on 11th May 1846 (Gould Collection Box 8, Natural History Museum library, London) saying that “I have today handed over to Mr Strange a parcel for you containing the few quadrupeds my friend Dr Leichhardt was able to collect during his expedition overland to Port Essington. The Doctor had presented them to our Museum, but feeling desirous, that any undescribed animal, should be submitted to your judgement, I have great pleasure … send them”. Lynd asked Gould to return them, but possibly Gould only sent some back (there are, for instance, two kangaroo skulls, of Macropus dorsalis and M. ?agilis, from the Leichhardt Expedition in the Natural History Museum, both donated by Gould on 27th August 1846). There are also two small mammals in the NHM collections, a Pale Field-rat Rattus tunneyi culmorum(BMNH 1881.04.06.07) and a Yellow-footed Antechinus Antechinus flavipes (BMNH 1881.04.06.06), which are probably from the Leichhardt Expedition.

Note 48

Gilbert actually recorded October 22nd on the original label attached to a male Fuscus Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus which is now in the Liverpool Museum (D1019s).

Note 49

Gilbert was referring to a Brolga Grus rubicundus, not a Sarus Crane Grus antigone.